A full QUARTER of the league is currently looking for a new head coach, and a few more might be on the way. Some were obvious, like the Broncos and Jets, while others came as quite a shock. With all the jobs opening up and all the coaches moving around, Monday created plenty of winners and losers who will be getting a head start on 2019.
10. Loser: New England Patriots
Despite a down year for the New England Patriots (as hard as it is to imagine an 11-5 season that ended with a first-round bye as a down year), many members of the Patriots coaching staff are being looked at for jobs around the NFL. Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels is a popular candidate and has already been requested for interviews, but the linebackers coach and offensive line coach are also rumored to be in their final year in Foxboro. The Patriots are on the decline, and losing a large portion of the coaching staff would put an end to the most dominant dynasty in the Super Bowl era.
9. Winner: Josh McDaniels
Much like the situation with the Browns, Patriots Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels has a wide variety of options for his next job. It’s still very likely, based on what happened last year, that McDaniels will remain with New England. If he does choose to leave, he would immediately become one of the most attractive options for some of the most attractive head coaching openings. He can pick between Aaron Rodgers, a Jets team with $100 Million+ in cap space and a possible landing spot for Le’Veon Bell, a Browns team that’s on a rapid rise, or even another stint in Denver with that star-studded defense. Anyone who can make that choice is a winner.
8. Loser: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers are Black Monday losers no matter what they decide to do with Mike Tomlin. If the Steelers keep Mike Tomlin for the last year of his contract and one of the many new head coaches turns into the next Matt Nagy or Sean McVay, then the next several seasons will be consumed with what-ifs. If the Steelers fire Tomlin, which doesn’t seem likely at this point, then he can go to his pick of open positions as he would be the #1 head coaching candidate. Even worse, he goes to a rival like Cleveland or Cincinnati. Either way, Pittsburgh loses. The Rooneys have to hope that Tomlin turns things around next season and that none of the new coaches will be any good. Otherwise, 2018 is a massive wasted opportunity.
And this doesn’t even include the absolute dumpster fire that is the Antonio Brown debacle. What a wasted season.
7. Winner: Mike McCarthy
Mike McCarthy is one of the better head coaching candidates, and the teams he has already been linked with are all in a position to make a comeback in 2019. His unceremonious exit from Green Bay left many believing his past success was the result of having Aaron Rodgers, and in the latter years there was some reason to think that. 2019 is his chance to prove the doubters wrong, and with his pick of open head coaching positions, his comeback can be all the sweeter.
6. Loser: Steve Wilks
I understand that the Cardinals were terrible this year. They were literally the worst team in the NFL, and their big rookie quarterback wasn’t very good. The playcalling was uninspired and Wilks didn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence. But one year? That seems just a bit harsh.
Steve Wilks will forever have the one-and-done label attached to him because Arizona fired him after his first season, and it likely means he will never be an NFL head coach again. “You got fired after one year. Something ain’t right.” is all that will go through a GM’s head if they’re interviewing Wilks, and that’s really a shame. Even as bad as things went this season, he deserved another shot.
5. Winner: Sam Darnold and the New York Jets
It’s sad to see a man lose his job, but Todd Bowles just never fit as a head coach, especially in New York. Now, the Jets are in one of the best positions a losing team can be in. Their rookie quarterback showed promise, they are still picking high in a draft stacked with defensive talent, and have over $100 million to spend to attract superstar players to the largest media market in the Western Hemisphere. All this also makes the Jets one of the best head coaching jobs in the league. The champions of the off-season will almost certainly be the Jets. All they have to do is not mess it up.
As for Darnold specifically, he gets the opportunity to start over with an up-and-coming offensive mind that New York hopes is the next Sean McVay or a seasoned veteran like Mike McCarthy that knows a thing or two about coaching up a talented quarterback. The progress Darnold made in 2018 should continue nicely next season, making him just as big a winner as the Jets as a whole.
4. Loser: 2019 Rookies
With a quarter of the league already looking for a new coach and likely one or two more teams still to come, the 2019 rookie class is going to be overwhelmingly under the tutelage of a rookie head coach. The last few years have had heavy coaching turnover, but none have been as bad as 2018. Of course this means there is also plenty of room for upside for these rookies and their coaches to become the next big thing, so perhaps some 2019 rookies will be winners a year from now. For now though, the outlook isn’t great.
3. Winner: Cincinnati Bengals Fans
It finally happened. Bengals fans, rejoice! Marvin Lewis is finally gone. This is the best thing that could have possibly happened for the fans, and nothing else needs to be said to justify this as a win.
Now please don’t hire Hugh Jackson.
2. Loser: The Rooney Rule
One aspect of Black Monday that has been criticised this year is that of the 8 head coaches fired this season, 5 are African American. As of right now, the only black head coaches in the NFL are Mike Tomlin of the Steelers and Anthony Lynn of the Chargers. Whatever the cause of this is (something this piece is not meant to answer), it is clearly that the end goal of the Rooney Rule, a policy that requires teams to interview minority candidates for all senior coaching positions, was much closer to being met at the beginning of the season than at the end of it.
This season is also terrible for black coaches who aspire to become NFL head coaches, because if they do get the job, fans will be skeptical because of a lingering doubt thanks to a clearly imperfect Rooney Rule giving the appearance of affirmative action in the NFL. All this combines to make the Rooney Rule the biggest loser of Black Monday.
1. Winner: Cleveland Browns
Yes, Cleveland is even winning in the off-season this year. Not only has their #1 draft pick actually met expectations (even exceed them in a lot of aspects), but the mid-season coaching change has given rise to the Browns tried talent. Interim head coach Gregg Williams very well may have earned the full-time job. Even if he hasn’t, Cleveland has a bounty of seasoned coaches and coordinators to choose from.
The Browns could keep Williams as head coach, hire Todd Bowles as a defensive coordinator and Steve Sarkisian as an offensive coordinator. They could keep Williams as the defensive coordinator and go after a stable veteran like Mike McCarthy or even Bruce Arians. All of these options to pick from means Cleveland is the big winner of Black Monday.
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